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What's-Going-On Session

I just missed Jim Benson's discussion of SpaceDev's Dreamchaser, because I was out in the hallway, but Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace is about to speak.

Giving a brief history of the company. It's a volunteer organization (so far) funded by John Carmack, writer of the Doom and Quake video games. They're hobbyists, mixing computers and rockets. Think of themselves as "twenty-first century bicycle mechanics."

Describing their new vehicle, with LOX/ethanol propellants. They're have a "vertical drag racer" in January of '07, and expect to have a hundred-kilometer altitude, X-Prize class vehicle next spring. They've been talking to Lutz Kayser, who developed OTRAG back in the sixties and seventies, and are incorporating some of his modular, low-cost-component ideas into their vehicle. It's called Large Array of SimplE Rockets (LASER). Starting to think about orbital capability.

Chuck Lauer talking now about Rocketplane Kistler. Combining the two companies--one a horizontal takeoff and land, and the other a vertical takeoff and land, provides some good synergies. Showing CAD views of the XP suborbital vehicle. Based on a stretched Lear 25 for a four-seat vehicle, and working on a version with stretched fuselage and larger wings with eight seats. Verified computer design against the wind tunnel (did a lot of work at Marshall Spaceflight Center) and consider configuration validated, with stable entry (Burt Rutan wrong about feathered configuration only safe way to come back). Uisng Rocketdyne RS-88 engine.

Three and a half gees up, four to five minutes of weightlessness, four gees coming in. Oklahoma Spaceport got its license about a month ago. Established the first non-military overland track for rockets.

Looking into using XP as a platform for an expendable second stage. Would separate out of the atmosphere to avoid aero loads during separation. Using a Japanese hybrid rocket (LOX/Polyethylene). Developed as sounding rocket, and determined that they could get it to over four hundred kilometers altitude with a seventy-kilometer release, with nine minutes of weightlessness. Could also do scramjet/entry research with it.

Looking at other spaceports in Japan, Australia, Dubai, and US orbital spaceports (site still TBD), with long-term goal of point-to-point service. Hope to eventually integrate spaceplanes into conventional ATC system, with perhaps Anchorage as a world-wide hub.

Kistler is getting their contractors back on board, preparing for COTS, but also interested in Bigelow as a customer even without COTS. COTS only necessary to meet early NASA goals. They expect to be able to launch in 2007 or 2008 given funding because vehicle is three quarters built. Considering Florida and New Mexico as potential US launch sites. Could have fully-reusable system, at the same time that LEO comsats seem to be making a comeback.

Can fly standard space station hardware with a pressurized cargo module, for microgravity experiments of a couple weeks without ISS. Looking into ways of getting back to the moon with it, when combined with propellant depot. Need to have an entire earth-moon system serviceable by commercial vehicles quickly and cheaply. Thinks that with needed flight rate, could do heavy-lift job at fraction of the cost, and would like to see COTS model extended to lunar missions.

Dave Masten up now. Formed in Space Access '04, built a lot ot test stands and infrastructure. Had major milestone of igniter about the time of Space Access '05, had initial engine testing in November, and right after the recent ISDC had successful engine tests. Major milestones always seem to come right after major conferences. Will have their first flight test next week.

Starting off with suborbital, hundred kilograms to hundred kilometers. Want to build on operational capability, without being too concerned about performance initially. Next step will be a vehicle with a little more payload and a lot more altitude. Then scale up to something that can take people into space, vertical takeoff vertical landing. Want to be able to stack them to eventually get to orbit. Like vertical vertical because it lends itself eventually to a lunar lander. Interested in pursuing lunar lander challenge.

Engine R&D is complete, expect first hover flight next week (July 27th). Will compete for X-Prize Cup Lunar Lander Challenge, and expect to be able to go into space in early 2007.


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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 21, 2006 10:18 AM.

Friday Keynote was the previous entry in this blog.

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